From Heat Exchangers to Towel Hooks

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CEEE Postdoctoral Research Associate Felipe de Castro holds a prototype of his design for a high-performance recuperator to boost the efficiency of small gas turbine systems.

CEEE’s newest research associate, Felipe de Castro, is always designing and building — whether it’s a more efficient heat exchanger, a more efficient and environmentally sustainable data center, a next-generation thermal management system that uses less water in cooling towers, or a simple towel hook for his own personal use. This spring, de Castro joined the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Energy Engineering as a postdoctoral research associate in its Advanced Heat Exchangers and Process Intensification (AHXPI) consortium under the guidance of CEEE co-founder Michael Ohadi in the Department of Mechanical Engineering

De Castro earned his Ph.D. at Italy’s University of Genova, where his research focused on fluid dynamics and heat transfer. For his thesis, he developed a high-performance recuperator to boost the efficiency of small gas turbine systems used in generating electricity. His stainless steel prototype introduced a novel modular axisymmetric design, seamlessly welding the metal pieces through diffusion bonding, an advanced manufacturing method.   

Experimental data and computational simulations validated de Castro’s design, demonstrating highly effective heat transfer and low pressure drops across different turbine sizes, making it a strong candidate for future gas turbine applications. It could also prove more economical than current recuperator designs. “My concept takes advantage of modern manufacturing techniques, which helps to reduce the manufacturing time and cost,” de Castro says.

In his free time, de Castro makes everything from silverware containers and toothbrush holders to turbine fuel injector nozzles. “I don’t have a television at home,” says de Castro, “but I have a 3D printer.” 

Born and raised in Brazil, de Castro earned his master of science at Brazil’s Federal University of Santa Catarina, where his research focused on cooling tower water recovery research to help reduce the large amount of water these towers consume. He tested the application of thermosyphons in a scaled cross-flow cooling tower to passively recover water using the outside tower's ambient as a heat sink.  

At CEEE, de Castro will be working with the AHXPI team in the Smart and Small Thermal Systems (S2TS) laboratory to develop the next generation of heat exchangers and energy systems. “The S2TS group is known internationally for its innovative work in thermal management systems for diverse applications, offering an ideal environment for advancing my own research goals,” de Castro says. “I have always been curious, hands-on and full of ideas. I still have questions I need to answer, which is the motivation to keep the motion on the research.”

Published May 10, 2024